Mickey Harte was down but not out as he entered the press room following his sides three-point defeat to Kerry in this afternoon’s All-Ireland SFC semi-final at Croke Park.
Tyrone were the better team for large parts of the game but faltered in the final fifteen minutes as Kerry took control following Stephen O’Brien’s killer goal. Harte felt that Tyrone could have capitalised more on their first-half dominance but was ultimately aware that today’s game could have gone either way.
“It certainly is. I thought we had a good first half and probably felt we could have been a wee bit further ahead and that might have given us more of a platform to go on with. We did expect there would be something more to Kerry and I think we caught them wee bit by surprise in the first half and they had time to reflect on that and regroup.
“They came out with a different attire in the second half — that they were up for the challenge, up for the fight. As the game went on, that became very apparent. And I suppose when it got close, a point for point game, a goal was going to be major for any team and that’s the way it turned out. A goal meant Kerry only had to cover point for point and they were going to be in business. If we got a goal, I’d like to think we would have done the same thing, but we didn’t and they did and that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.”
Harte added that half-time came at a bad point for Tyrone as they were dominating proceedings and had Kerry on the back foot. The short whistle ultimately gave the Kingdom time to regroup and refocus.
“Half time is a dangerous place — if you are going well, you don’t want half time at all. We were going well up to half time and that’s a time out to be able to make adjustments with settled minds — that was half time at a bad time. But we have plenty of experience of teams being in a bad place and turning it down — even in our own game against Cork who looked in a good place at half time, and came out and got the first point in the second half.
“So we got plenty of examples of this not being a done deal, this is a dangerous deal because the team behind is going to come out more energised about changing the script. It can be hard to get your team to… you try to talk the right language to get your team to win the second half. We didn’t manage that, which is a shame.”
Tommy Walsh entered the fray for Kerry towards the end and made a telling impact as he assisted 0-2 as well as causing a number of headaches in the Tyrone defence. Harte admitted his presence made a difference but he also singled out Jack Sherwood who entered the fray at half-time and played a starring role in the Kingdom’s victory.
“He’s a big player and he’s a lot of experience and he has a physicality about him and he’s a target man. He’s lots of those things which took a bit of the weight off David Clifford’s shoulders in terms of being the out ball man. I think Jack Sherwood made a good difference when he came in in the second half too, he gave them a bit more experience, a bit more power if you like around that department of the field as well and I suppose it became much more of a toe-to-toe game.
“Maybe Kerry abandoned their own sweeper idea to a large degree and went at the game more. I haven’t got the count on it but I felt we missed a lot of chances that we could have taken, I don’t know how it levels out, how many Kerry missed and how many we missed but I would always feel that we missed more without having the count.”
The Tyrone manager, when asked, also took umbrage with the performance of referee Maurice Deegan who he felt gave some easy frees at certain stages of the game.
“He obviously played a big part in it because he was very important, he made a lot of decisions. If you felt he made the decisions good for you you’d say ‘hey that’s great’ and if you felt he didn’t do them good for you you’d say ‘I felt that was a bit harsh’. You certainly would have looked a few decisions and thought they were harsh.
“I felt it seemed to be easy to get frees at certain stages of the game and this seeing things in the distance ahead of the game. One I thought was really strange, we were coming out with the ball, Mattie Donnelly is coming out to try and present for it and he’s blown for holding. Now I wonder why he would want to hold the defender, he’d want the ball not to be holding the defender but these things happen and I’m sure everyone will look through it to their own coloured lens and to mine in the immediate reflection, I thought there were a number of decisions that weren’t good for us.”